Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection & Retro-Bit’s Wireless Genesis Controller – Review

After cleaning up the trophies in Tokyo Jungle and Blue Toad Murder Files, I went back through my partially played PlayStation 3 history to see if there were any other trophy lists I could mop up somewhat quickly. I was on a roll and figured I would keep trophy hunting before devoting serious time to something else, like Suikoden III. After all, whether my friends realize it or not, we’re in a never-ending competition to obtain trophies, achievements, etc. I eventually decided upon Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. The prospects of unlocking the platinum trophy didn’t seem too daunting, and to boot, it’d give me an excuse to purchase one of the Retro-Bit 2.5 GHz Genesis controllers I’d been salivating over.

Released in February 2009 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection was a sequel of sorts to Backbone Entertainment’s previous Sega compilation: Sega Genesis Collection. That release, available for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable since November 2006, contained more than thirty Genesis and arcade games, skewing more towards the former, as the name implies. This follow-up included nearly fifty, including arcade titles and even a pair of Master System games: Phantasy Star and Golden Axe Warrior. As a fan of both turn-based RPGs and Zelda influenced action-adventure games, the inclusion of these last two was the cherry on top of an already stacked collection.

So Golden Axe Warrior is… just Zelda, huh?

Now, by virtue of this collection focusing solely on first-party titles it’s not going to be the most comprehensive look back at the Sega Genesis. Heck, it’s not even a comprehensive collection of Sega’s output, what with any title that featured a third-party license attached omitted; think X-Men or Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. Still, this is such an incredible compilation, and with secondhand copies going for less than twenty bucks, it remains an incredible value too. The quantity of games alone makes this a stunning package, but there’s plenty of quality too. I mean, the fact that all turn-based Phantasy Star games are collected here, the only instance in an English language release, is just phenomenal. But then there are the Shining games, nearly every Genesis Sonic release, the Streets of Rage series, visual showpieces such as Ristar and VectorMan, and a personal favorite of mine, Flicky. Together, they’re enough to overlook duds like Altered Beast or Super Thunder Blade.

Each Genesis game had basic museum information, including trivia and scans of original game boxes, as well as some handy gameplay features like save states, turbo functions, and full button remapping. The latter was especially helpful in replicating original button layouts while using my new Retro-Bit Genesis controller.

It’s always nice to get extra trivia or background information on games included in a compilation like this.

Despite having no shortage of modern eight button Sega controllers I was jonesing for another, specifically one that would work wirelessly on the PlayStation 3. I’m a sucker for translucent controllers and Retro-Bit’s Slate Gray Saturn controller is stellar; sometimes I just marvel at it, you know? I have the Bluetooth variant, which is compatible with the PS3 via a wired USB connection so I actually had a good reason not to buy another controller, but I wouldn’t let that stop me. Nor would the fact that I already have what is probably the de facto eight button Sega controller for modern consoles, 8BitDo’s borderline perfect M30. The squishyness of the buttons, the ergonomics, everything is just so, so good. Unfortunately, it’s not compatible with the PS3 even via a wired connection. And so there was no choice, I had to get a new controller.

I opted for Retro-Bit’s Genesis inspired eight button pad, one of the designs I hadn’t tried. It came in a few different color schemes, as well as Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz versions, but for wireless PlayStation 3 compatibility, the latter was my only option. While they’re slightly more expensive than their Bluetooth counterparts, the 2.4 GHz controllers are also packaged with two receivers, one for USB devices and another for original Genesis hardware, plus a nifty little case to house everything. Besides featuring a connection slightly less prone to input delays, the 2.4 GHz is also compatible with more platforms, albeit with wireless dongles.

This controller didn’t win me over like the other two aftermarket Sega controllers I’ve dabbled with, but it’s still a pretty solid choice for this compilation, on this platform.

As far as the controller itself goes, it’s… fine. The buttons recall those of original Genesis hardware, with the addition of some chintzy shoulder buttons and a pair of modern Home and Select buttons. With no rumble motors, it weighs next to nothing, which contributes to a feeling of cheapness that in my opinion faithfully harkens back to Genesis controllers of yesteryear. It’s still a worthwhile controller and a fantastic way to experience these games, but it definitely earns the bronze award between the three controllers I’ve dabbled with.

Shortly after Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection was released for the home consoles of the day, Sega began releasing a similar compilation piecemeal for Windows PCs. Put together by d3t, the individual volumes were then repackaged in 2018 as Sega Genesis Classics and made available for a newer generation of platforms. It contained nearly every game from the previous compilation plus a few more, but omitted the arcade and Master System games. The museum information and interviews were also cut, but the games contained a few more emulation options, and even mod support for the Steam release.

Ristar is so freakin’ vibrant!

As one learns when they begin to collect video game compilations, there’s pretty much a reason to own every iteration, what with omissions and new inclusions from one release to the next. Such is the case with Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. While there’s a newer, perhaps better compilation of most of these Genesis games, this one is still worthy of a spot on the shelf. I’m a little more reserved regarding Retro-Bit’s Genesis controller. For a narrow use case like wanting a PlayStation 3 compatible wireless Genesis controller, it’s the best (and only?) option. Otherwise, there are better options, such as 8BitDo’s M30 and even Retro-Bit’s Saturn styled controller.

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